Monday, October 23, 2017

Mahatma Gandhi on the use of Indian Armed Forces - 1

The following is from "Slender was the Thread" (1969) by Lt. Gen. L.P. Sen.  Sen, then a Colonel,  was sent to Kashmir as acting Brigadier in command of the 161 Infantry Brigade to fill in for the wounded Brigadier Katoch.  Per Col. Bhaskar Sarkar, "Outstanding Victories of the Indian Army",  Brigadier Sen led his forces to a decisive victory at Shalateng, November 7, 1947.

The battle of Shalateng was one of the most decisive battles ever fought by the Indian Army. It totally changed the tide of battle in the Kashmir Valley. It completely removed the threat to Srinagar and led to recapture of most of the territories lost to the Raiders in the initial days of the conflict.
Shalateng was the first decisive victory of the Indian Army after independence. But the principles of war namely concentration, offensive action and surprise that were employed successfully in this battle by Brigadier Sen have contributed to the success of many battles. Years will go by. New weapon systems will be introduced. Firepower on the battlefield will grow. New battle drills and tactics may be evolved. But these fundamental principles of war remain relevant today and will continue to do so in the future. It is a battle that deserves to be studied by all aspiring generals.

 L.P. Sen writes:

As I was leaving General Russell's house {in Delhi, after briefing Russell on the appointment as acting Brigadier}, I received a message to the effect that Brigadier Thapar would be awaiting me at the southern entrance to South Block of the Secretariat.   When I arrived he informed me that Mahatma Gandhi wished to see me and be given an intelligence briefing.  We drove to his residence and I told him everything that was known to us.   He listened most intently and when I finished and asked whether he had any questions he would like answered, he replied, "No, no questions."

After a few seconds of silence, he continued: "Wars are a curse on humanity.  They are so utterly senseless.  They bring nothing but suffering and destruction."

As a soldier and one about to be engaged in battle in a matter of hours, I was at a loss to know what to say, and eventually asked him: "What do I do in Kashmir?"

Mahatma Gandhi smiled and said: "You're going in to protect innocent people, and to save them from suffering and their property from destruction.   To achieve that you must naturally make full use of every means at your disposal."

It was the last time I was to see him alive.

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